Jameis Winston is coming up on Year 3, widely considered to be a pivotal year for developing quarterbacks. What is the perception of the young Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB around the division? What does he need to do to become the next great quarterback to emerge from the NFC South?
ESPN's other NFC South reporters weigh in:
Vaughn McClure, Atlanta Falcons reporter: I spoke with a coach who was around Winston when he first entered the league. The coach said there was nothing Winston needed to work on more than his deep-ball touch. Over the last two seasons, Winston is 18-of-81 (22.2 percent) for 672 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions on balls thrown 25-plus air yards down the field. Those numbers should improve when you have a big target such as Mike Evans -- provided Evans doesn't drop the ball -- and now one of the league's most dangerous deep threats in speedy DeSean Jackson. As far as others' perceptions around the division, I think folks know Winston is a fierce competitor and a player on the rise. I know MVP Matt Ryan respects him, as do the Falcons as a whole. Besides, Winston has defeated the Falcons in three out of four matchups.
David Newton, Carolina Panthers reporter: Winston was often compared to Panthers quarterback Cam Newton when he entered the league in 2015, but their games are totally different in that Newton has relied on his legs as much as his arm up until now. Where the comparison is fair is in completion percentage and interceptions. Neither is exceptionally accurate and both have a tendency to make critical errors, Winston perhaps more so than Newton. For Winston to take his game to the next level, he needs to improve in both categories, particularly interceptions. His 18 picks were the second highest in the league last season. That dropped his passer rating to 86.1, 21st-best in the league. Ryan, for example, had a rating of 117.1 with 38 touchdown passes to only seven interceptions. New England's Tom Brady had a rating of 112.2 with 28 touchdown passes to only two interceptions. During Newton's MVP season in 2015 he threw 35 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions. To take his game to that next level, Winston has to dramatically improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also needs to get Tampa Bay to the playoffs. Having another proven weapon in Jackson should help, but ultimately great quarterbacks are judged by their postseason success.
Mike Triplett, New Orleans Saints reporter: There is definitely a healthy respect among Saints defenders for Winston’s talent -- as well as his poise at a young age. But I think there is also a sense that he’ll give the defense opportunities at turnovers if they can bait him or rattle him. So that’s definitely a next step he has to take. "Any time you’re a young quarterback and you’re confident in your arm, he takes some risks," said veteran cornerback Sterling Moore, who was Winston's teammate in 2015 before facing him last year. "I think once he learns that he doesn’t have to fit every ball in there at times ... once he learns to cut down on the mistakes or kind of take what the defense gives you, he’s gonna be hell to deal with for a while." Moore admitted that he was a little skeptical when the Bucs drafted Winston in 2015 because of his issues in college and the way he was perceived from the outside. But that perception quickly changed. "When you get to practice, you see how serious he is. You see that the pregame speeches, the hype, the antics, it’s coming from a good place. It’s not just a ‘look at me’ mentality that it may come off as on film," Moore said. "How early he got to the facility, how serious he took the looks from the scout-team defense. And I know last year he took a big leap ... so I think people in this league are starting to take him extremely serious, especially with the weapons they added on that offense."